Southern Ocean Lodge Is back. Here’s our verdict

Southern Ocean Lodge is back. Here’s our verdict.

The rebuilt Kangaroo Island lodge embraces both change and continuity.

Words by Ute Junker

Photos supplied

The two ospreys are back, wheeling in lazy circles on the coastal air currents. Long a familiar sight in the skies above Kangaroo Island’s southern edge, the endangered raptors went missing after the bushfires that razed one of Australia’s most renowned lodges to the ground.

“When we came back on site, all the birds were gone. It was such a strange feeling,” says Alison Heath, long-time lodge co-manager with her partner John Hird. “It’s been wonderful to watch them all come back.”

Birds aren’t the only ones flocking back to Kangaroo Island. Since Southern Ocean Lodge reopened in December it has been booked solid, with former guests eager to show their love. Original owners Hayley and James Baillie tasked original architect Max Pritchard with delivering an experience almost indistinguishable from the original, and they hit the target. Walk through those soaring rusty front doors into the Great Room, with its jaw-dropping views along the surf-swept coast, and it feels as if nothing has changed.

In fact, there have been a few tweaks along the way. While the lodge has stayed within its original footprint, the orientation of the guest suites is slightly different, meaning you can now admire the ever-changing oceanscape from the comfort of your bed, watching pink-hued sunrises or misty moody mornings give way to the glittering cobalt blues of a sunny day.

Other additions include the relocated, renamed Southern Spa, which now has a sauna with hot and cold plunge pools and a gym. There is also a new private retreat, the four-bedroom Ocean Pavilion that can also be configured as two two-bedroom villas.

Some of the most significant changes happened behind the scenes, including state-of-the-art fire safety systems and improved sustainability measures covering everything from rainwater harvesting to solar power.  Currently 65 per cent of the lodge’s energy needs are met by solar power, a number that is set to rise as operations are perfected.

Much work has also been done to revegetate the area, which appears surprisingly verdant. Although ribbons of ghostly grey wind through the greenery, where scorched plants are still waiting to sprout fresh shoots, the area around the lodge has been propagated with 45,000 cuttings from native species such as creeping boobialla and saltbush.

What remains utterly unchanged is Southern Ocean Lodge’s dedication to celebrating Kangaroo Island, its landscapes and its producers. The free excursions that let you explore the island’s highlights are popular – don’t miss the visit to the fur seal colony at Seal Bay – but so too is spending a morning or afternoon unwinding in the Grand Room, gazing out to sea while sipping a choice drop from the expansive collection of South Australian wines.

And then there are the memorable meals, with chef Tom Saliba and his team weaving together local specialties – oysters and marron, King George Whiting and mulloway – in flavour-packed menus.

Communing with the wild beauty of the deep south doesn’t stop at the end of the day. Many people sleep with their glass doors open, allowing the sound of the sea to lull them to sleep. If that’s not your style, consider leaving the blinds up. In the untroubled skies above the Southern Ocean, stars cut through the darkness like torchlight, a dazzling display to fall asleep to.


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